Suicide is a very painful and controversial subject within many religions. It also happens to be a subject that hits very close to home for me personally. I have had an uncle that committed suicide and due to my Depression have actually contemplated it myself. I did not go through with my attempt. Having witnessed the pain that my family went through, I had enough mind left to call my pastor instead. I self-admitted into the hospital. If you wish to read the actual accounts of what I went through you can find my stories as guest articles on the Bible Basics site (Why Me God?) and the Depression site (Experiencing In-House Treatment for Depression).
But since that time I have done a lot of reading and studying about suicide, especially concerning the fact that so many religions seem to consider it the ultimate unforgivable sin. In many religions it is believed that if you commit suicide, you go to Hell, period.
I understand the theory behind this. Suicide is technically murder. The suffix “cide” means to kill; pesticide – the killing of bugs, matricide - the killing of your mother, genocide – the killing of a race (as in when Hitler attempted to eradicate the Jewish nation), suicide - the killing of oneself. Murder is one of the seven deadly sins in Christianity. It is even the first of the five precepts in Buddhism – to refrain from taking a life.
The second part that makes suicide an “unforgivable” sin in many religions is that a person does not have the chance to ask for forgiveness from God before death, so they go to the afterworld with an unforgiven sin on their soul, automatically dooming them to Hell.
This is where I am going to get into trouble with a lot of people.
I have a problem with these beliefs.
Yes, I believe suicide is wrong. It is killing – there is no arguing that. But I do not believe that a person is doomed to everlasting torment if they commit suicide.
Here is my reasoning.
People that commit suicide are in pain be it physical or mental. A person that commits suicide, or is even contemplating it cannot in any way be considered “in their right mind”. Many suffer from Clinical Depression, Bi-Polar, or Schizophrenia. Some are addicted to drugs; legal and illegal. These are substances that alter a person’s brain chemistry. There are delusions of grandeur, moments of paranoia, times when it is impossible to believe that there is anything or anyone in this world that can help or care about them.
When I was contemplating suicide, I had a million reasons why it would be a good idea; my husband would not have to put up with a crazy wife anymore, he could marry a prettier, smarter, woman who would be a better mother for our child (unbelievably I actually had the woman picked out that I thought he should marry.) My older two children could go back and live with their biological dad, they wouldn’t see my moods swings anymore. I wouldn’t be an embarrassment to my parents. I even had thought of a way to kill myself so it would look like an accident so my family wouldn’t go through the same pain they suffered with my uncle. But there was that one little piece of me that was still me, and that was enough.
I believe that God knows us. He knows our pain. He knows when we are not in our right minds, when we are making decisions that are based on – basically insanity. I do not believe He judges us on that. I do not believe He would be so cruel as to condemn someone to everlasting pain because they made a decision when they were so incapacitated.
For you families that have lost a loved one to suicide, let me offer you this comfort – it was not your fault. Every surviving member tries to go back through the memories and say “I should have seen that”. But for the most part, once a person decides on committing suicide, they actually achieve some peace. By making that decision they feel a burden has lifted off their shoulders. They see an end to their suffering. So you as a family probably thought they were feeling better.
The other thing is it is hard for a suicidal person to get out of their own head. When they think of their family, all they can think of is how much better everyone will be without them. This may seem like a pity party to the survivors, but it is a desperate rationalization for the one that is hurting.
In the end you as a family must forgive. Forgive yourselves for not saving your loved one, and forgive your loved one for leaving you with so much pain. Try to remember the good times. Don’t focus on what signs you might have missed, you will only extend your grief by doing this. Take time to grieve, but them go on with your life. Seek counseling, especially if there are young children. Be kind and loving to yourselves.
And know that the one you lost loved you, too. But they were in pain. Sometimes it is hard to think past pain.
My thoughts and prayers go with all of you.
If you are contemplating suicide, PLEASE get help immediately.
National Suicide Hotline Number: 1-800-273-TALK(8255). The hotline operates 24 hours a day. The call is free and completely confidential. You can also call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Room for help.